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City’s new ALeRT program may help to cut crime recidivism

Copyright © 2017 Albuquerque Journal

On a Friday morning last month, Bobbie Trujillo, 35, was arrested under a railroad bridge near First and Central because, police said, she had a syringe filled with a substance that tested positive for opioids.

She was treated at a hospital after complaining of a heroin overdose and booked into the Metropolitan Detention Center later that day.

APD Real Time Crime Center Manager T. J. Wilham

When she made her first appearance in court the next morning, pretrial services recommended that a judge set bail at $500, said T.J. Wilham, director of the Albuquerque Police Department’s Real Time Crime Center.

But prosecutors had been alerted about Trujillo’s record hours earlier by a new team of crime analysts working at APD headquarters whose aim is to quickly flag people who are arrested that police say are “habitual offenders.” Then prosecutors and detectives can aggressively prosecute the case.

In Trujillo’s case, she had a history of felony arrests and failures to appear. So prosecutors argued for higher bail, and a judge agreed, setting it at $15,000. She remains in jail.

Trujillo was the first to be arrested after being flagged by the city’s ALeRT program, which stands for Analysis-Led Recidivism Team, Wilham said.

Albuquerque, Bernalillo County, the District Attorney’s Office and the FBI partnered for the project, which is based in the Real Time Crime Center.

Wilham said the program could help solve problems that are unique to Albuquerque – thousands of cases in recent years have been dismissed by prosecutors because of changes to procedures in Bernalillo County criminal courts, and the city’s crime rate has risen. For instance, the Albuquerque area, per capita, had the most auto thefts in the country in 2016, according to a report by the National Insurance Crime Bureau.

Trujillo was arrested on the drug charge two days after law enforcement officials announced ALeRT’s launch.

“It’s a classic example of a very good success of the program,” Wilham said of Trujillo’s arrest. “It might look like a minor offense on the surface of it. … Our mission is to give (judges and prosecutors) more information.”

Another person arrested and subjected to ALeRT shortly after it became active was Simon Peter Gonzales, 43.

Gonzales was picked up on several warrants and booked into Metropolitan Detention Center, where he was fingerprinted.

Wilham said the department’s crime lab concluded those fingerprints matched fingerprints in several open Albuquerque police burglary investigations. Investigators are looking at Gonzales for possible additional charges, he said.

“We’re trying to be a big part of that solution,” Wilham said. “We can jump-start those investigations.”

Narrowing the field

In the past three years, Trujillo has been arrested six times in felony cases and twice on misdemeanor charges. She also has failed to appear in court three times and was the subject of four pending felony cases at the time of her arrest over Memorial Day Weekend, according to city documents.

One felony case against her involved an armed robbery, and two were for suspicion of driving a stolen vehicle. But many of the cases involving her arrests were voluntarily dismissed by prosecutors.

Because of her arrest history, Trujillo was one of about 50 people who have been flagged by ALeRT analysts.

To narrow the field, the team considers only the previous three years when studying a person’s criminal history to see if he or she should be flagged upon arrest, Wilham said.

“Someone could have been rehabilitated,” he said. “Somebody could have gone through the system, gone through a program, and we don’t want them to qualify or be identified as a repeat offender.”

City officials said the 50 or so people now in the ALeRT system have been arrested on felony charges about 350 times in the past three years. But their conviction rate for those cases averaged only 15 percent, Wilham said.

Having repeated arrests, especially arrests for violent crimes and crimes that are increasing in Albuquerque, such as auto theft, can land someone on the ALeRT list, he said.

Making a difference

John McCall, an attorney who represented Trujillo in prior cases, questioned why she was one of the defendants placed in the ALeRT system.

In her robbery case, Trujillo had said she was forced to participate in the crimes and witnesses said she had black eyes when the crimes were committed, according to a criminal complaint. She pleaded guilty to aggravated assault, conspiracy and misdemeanor battery as part of a plea agreement and was sentenced to a year in the MDC.

“I would have serious questions about her as a choice,” McCall said. “She was a very sincere individual who was working on rehabilitation and trying to function as a mother to her children.”

But Mayor Richard Berry said police have reported that the ALeRT program is already having an effect in Albuquerque.

“I’m hearing from my leadership at APD that it’s starting to make a difference already,” he said in an interview. “Early indicators are that this is a very smart way to tackle the small number of people in our community who are doing harm.”

 


ALeRT in action
Bobbie Trujillo and Simon Gonzales were the first two people whose recent arrests led to “ALeRTs,” which is a new program being used by local and federal law enforcement agencies in Albuquerque. Trujillo is being held on $15,000 bail on a felony drug possession case; Gonzales is being investigated for unsolved burglary cases.

Bobbie Trujillo

⋄  Six felony arrests in past three years.

⋄  Two misdemeanor arrests in past three years.

⋄  Three failures to appear in court in past three years.

Simon Gonzales

⋄  Ten felony arrests in past three years.

⋄  Two misdemeanor arrests in past three years.

⋄  Three failures to appear in court in past three years.

⋄  Currently under investigation for several unsolved burglary crimes.

 

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